Wednesday, May 22, 2013

La résistance est feudal

The Académie Française has spoken, and spoken, never moves on...and doesn't want you to either, Frenchmen;
Few countries guard their linguistic heritage as jealously as France, and defend it so vigorously from foreign threats - such as the growing worldwide influence of English. Though, interestingly, the institution was originally founded by Cardinal Richelieu [in 1635] to fight off the invasion of Italian in the French language. Today, there are as many Italian as there are English originated words in the French language.
Which story has some implications for our old friend path dependence. Remember that Stanford economist Paul David favors Richelieuian measures for products with network effects, and language certainly has that. But aren't the French now locked-in to an inferior path thanks to just what David thinks is the solution to (admittedly a non-existent) problem.

French is histoire. The left-wing daily newspaper (oh so appropriately named) Liberation; 
...represents a growing fringe of the French population - young, urban, trendy, the kind which, in the last 20 years, has adopted franglais in their daily life.
For them, the work of the Academie Francaise - which offers grammatical advice and alternatives to new foreign words - now feels irrelevant and obsolete. They like nothing more than adding English sounding suffixes to French words, or combining English words into new terms such as "fooding" (made out of "food" and "feeling").
Because the world has moved on. Today there are over one billion speakers of Mandarin Chinese, almost 800 million English speakers, over 460 million Spanish, but only a little more than 200 million who use French.  On the internet even Russian is used more frequently than français.

And French had something of a first mover advantage on English, as it once was the language of diplomacy and international business, but now that's evolved to English.  Freely chosen, because the language of Shakespeare works better. Davidianism--authoritarianism--wants to deny a better way to over forty million Frenchmen.

No comments:

Post a Comment